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2010-11 Graduate Fellows

Pauline de Tholozany is a PhD candidate in the Department of French Studies. Her dissertation project, “Spilling Water and Aggravating the Stain: from Rousseau to Nineteenth Century Fictions,” traces a short history of clumsiness from the 1750’s to the middle of the nineteenth century. Being a maladroit in eighteenth-century France would have constituted a serious social handicap in refined circles: the aristocrat is after all supposed to embody a je ne sais quoi that cannot be defined, but that nonetheless excludes social faux-pas and blunders. Rousseau in the Confessions started a movement that would eventually result in a much more positive understanding of clumsiness.

This dissertation interweaves several critical perspectives in order to look at how clumsiness came to be valued as a sign both of sincerity and originality. From Jean-Jacques’ numerous and unfortunate faux-pas – which result in his social exclusion – to Rastignac’s disastrous blunders in Le père Goriot – which on the contrary allow him to gain the pity and the favor of his distinguished and powerful cousin – the ways in which clumsiness was looked at changed dramatically in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yet, clumsiness cannot be confined in a stable definition and system of value: it is both the sign of sincerity and the impossibility to convey it, both an accident and a latent characteristic, both the result of ineptness and the necessary instrument in the subject’s learning of agility and social adequacy.

Thomas Devaney is a PhD Candidate in History. His dissertation, “An ‘Amiable Enmity’: Frontier Spectacle and Intercultural Relations in Castile and Cyprus,” explores, broadly speaking, urban spectacles and relations between different religious groups on late medieval Mediterranean frontiers. Despite sincerely-held belief structures that often accorded negative roles to Muslims and Jews, borderland Christians traded with these groups and evinced a genuine respect for many aspects of Islamic and Jewish culture. This incongruity created a deep sense of insecurity and a conflicted attitude best described as an ‘amiable enmity’. Yet frontier zones were remarkably stable, suggesting that their inhabitants developed effective means of mitigating such tensions. Public spectacles of all kinds—religious processions, festivals, coronations, even executions—were essential tools of governance throughout medieval Europe. On the frontiers, where people were unable to consider issues of religion and identity in absolute terms, such displays assumed an even greater importance, offering frontier Christians a means of publicly addressing the contradictions inherent in complex ideas of conflict, cultural exchange, and coexistence. By examining these pageants within their urban contexts, this project aims to recover both their intended functions and popular reception. A deeper understanding of the resulting network of competing and negotiated meanings can inform our understanding of religious interactions both past and present.

Jonathan Gentry is a PhD candidate in History, studying the philosophy and politics of Central European art music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  His dissertation, “Sound Bodies: Music and Biopolitics in German Modernity,” examines how the music of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, and their lesser-known contemporaries engaged contemporaneous political debates, especially those related to health and the body.  By the end of the 19th Century every political party in the German and Austrian empires aimed to define and cultivate the healthy body, a prerogative that can be seen in everything from forced sterilization and political anti-Semitism to urban sanitation, health insurance, vaccination campaigns, and quarantine of contagious diseases.  This project argues that such a political transition can be heard (and also occurs) in the musical register.  By looking at both canonical and non-canonical compositions, as well as their critical reception, this study shows that the themes of vitality, nervousness, contagions, and the grotesque ensured that the musical sphere remained a contested site of political negotiation.

Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Civilization. Her dissertation, “Bicentennial Memory: Postmodernity, Media, and National Identity in the United States, 1966-1980,” examines historical subjectivity in the 1970s, arguing that this moment saw a profound change in the way that individuals, organizations, and the state conceived of and interacted with the American past, moving from a cultural logic of preservation to one of reenactment.  Looking at Bicentennial festivals, historical television, affective technology, museum exhibition, and cultural protest movements of the era, Malgorzata is attempting to trace the way that cultural production both reflected and influenced new modes of historical ideation, that, in placing subjects within experiential historical narratives, both reinforced hegemonic ideologies and opened up new spaces for reflection and refusal.  This project is also an intellectual history, as it maps and tries to account for a growing unease about the ability to understand history in American social and cultural critique in the 1970s and 80s.